Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts
This collection of original poems focuses on the effect of not only small-town Midwest, but also the generational weight of inheritance in this place—the ties and expectations of the land, patterns of alcoholism, and undiagnosed mental illness. As a writer, I am most interested in place and how it informs, shapes, and effects individuals. My poems navigate a lifetime of familial losses, the haunting of them, and the anticipation of a greater one to come. They also consider, challenge, and instill the agency of women—what that looks like over time, specifically, in the rural Midwest. Additionally, my project attempts to see how folklore and poetry can work together as they are both born from the need to understand the world. With my family’s Irish heritage in mind, I reference Irish folklore and family curses as a way to address alcoholism and family trauma, but also as an outlet for the speaker trying to navigate understanding herself and the roots she wants to establish. Each poem placed in Ireland is a moment of direct growth for the speaker, a space where they are still influenced by their family history but not ruled by it. While there are only a few poems physically placed in Ireland, folklore and cultural references can be found throughout the thesis to demonstrate parallels between where the family originated and where it is now—how behaviors, illnesses, expectations, and stories have been passed down. My thesis was heavily influenced by poets such as Margaret Atwood, Louise Glück, and Lucille Clifton; John McCarthy and Joy Priest; Sandy Longhorn and Catherine Pond; and Franny Choi and Noelle Crook. Work by these poets showed me how to weave familial relationships with the landscape, how to treat the landscape as an additional character and the importance of maintaining that throughout each poem, how to embrace and challenge ideas of femininity, and how to allow images to become strange. Much of my work attempts to understand and balance the clash of comfort and trauma regarding family and home. My hope for this project is to emphasize the value in understanding family history, in embracing and appreciating unique familial cultures. I want my poems to validate readers who feel trapped by their family’s roots and show how they can both appreciate those roots and abandon them.
Available for download on Wednesday, October 02, 2024
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